Elections

Russia, Iran caught trying to intimidate US voters ahead of key election

Caravanserai and AFP

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US voters line up to cast early ballots for the November 3 presidential election in Vienna, West Virginia, on October 21. [Stephen Zenner / AFP]

WASHINGTON -- The Russian and Iranian regimes have both obtained US voter information and taken actions to influence public opinion ahead of the November 3 presidential election, US officials announced Wednesday (October 21).

The Iranian regime specifically sent "spoofed" emails to Americans "designed to intimidate voters" and "incite social unrest", said US Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.

Tehran also distributed a video implying that criminals could send in fraudulent ballots, including from outside the United States, he added.

Both the Iranian and Russian regimes seek "to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine confidence in American democracy", said Ratcliffe.

"These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries," he said.

The announcement came after registered voters reported receiving personally addressed emails in the name of a known armed militia group in the United States.

Threatening content

The emails urged recipients to vote a certain way, "or we will come after you".

"We will know which candidate you voted for," they said. "I would take this seriously if I were you."

Ratcliffe, with US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray beside him, did not explain how the Russians and Iranians had obtained the voter information, or how the Russians might be using it.

The regimes of Russia, Iran and China are taking part in social media disinformation efforts aimed at influencing US voters, US intelligence has warned repeatedly.

US election systems remain safe, emphasised Wray.

"We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election," he said.

Officials in Iran and Russia Thursday (October 22) strongly denied the accusations.

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Feed them to the fishes

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